If you’re new to cooking, or even new to veggie centric cooking, it can all seem a bit daunting. There are loads of fancy sounding ingredients and bazzillions of weird and wonderful new things to try and get a hold of and sometimes it can feel a bit like – well why bother? Why not just reheat another ready meal.
But where’s the fun in that?!
I promise you, once you have a few cupboard essentials, and, importantly, know where to get them from, the new world of cookery will suddenly seem a doddle and far more fun. But what to prioritise? And why? And why should you trust me and not some other bossy boot blogger/cook/writer says?
Well- I don’t know why you should either, but for the purpose of this, let’s just assume you trust my taste buds & cooking and start from there.
There are a few rules with this type of cooking. Firstly and foremost.. don’t get scared about new ingredients. A sense of adventure is needed, also, learn to love ‘ethnic’ food stores.. Whether they’re your local Asian supermarket, the corner store owned by a Bangladeshi family or a Turkish supermarket come bakery come greengrocer, you’ll find a wealth of ingredients that are cheap, tasty and will round out your veggie cooking. If you live outside a large city (like me!) start to get eagle eyed when you do visit a bigger town & do that annoying thing I do, quickly ‘dart in’ to any interesting foodie supermarket you find and ransack the place for yummy comestibles and odd hard to get ingredients. Also, there is this wonderful thing called the internet. You’re on it right now.. loads of food can now be delivered, right to your door.
Secondly, get to know the basics you like- this will depend on where you’re from and what’s available to you. Get familiar with what you need, then make sure you don’t run out of it.
For a bit of inspiration as to what you might need… here are my top vegan basic store cupboard foods that I ALWAYS have in, as well as some top non-basics which I somehow find life very dull without. These are on top of any fresh or frozen food I have stashed away… Now, this might seem like a loooong list, but it’s one that I’ve built up over the years, replacing and adding things as my cooking evolves and my tastes change. Obviously I don’t buy all of these ingredients every single time I go shopping. ( I do however buy all kinds of random things that I try to use up. Who has a recipe for dried Iranian limes? I have a whole bag full!)
My food cupboard essentials:
- Chickpeas, both tinned and dried.
- Lentils, both tinned/pre-prepared and dried
- Tinned tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Stock/Boullion powder (I like Marigold or Korres the best)
- Soy Sauce
- Chilli Sauce (helllloooo Cholula!)
- Japanese Konbu stock powder (make sure you get the seaweed type, not the fishy one)
- Panko Breadcrumbs (yes I could make my own..but seriously, a few cheats here and there won’t kill me)
- Flaky Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- Dried Herbs & Spices: Smoked Paprika, Oregano, Thyme, Chilli Powder, Cumin
- White Wine & Balsamic Vinegars
- Decent olive oil – I somewhat controversially almost always use only olive oil too cook in & not the more fashionable coconut oil.
- Nutritional Yeast – this is sold in health food stores and has a pleasingly cheesy flavour- a bit like super dry parmesan cheese.
- Vegemite… Well, I am Australian after all. And it’s a brilliant source of B vitamins.
Not so essential but make life less dull:
- Tins of white beans/other beans OR dried beans (Eg black beans, kidney beans..)
- Fancy grains such as spelt, farro or bulghar wheat
- Tins of Artichokes
- Dried Chillies
- Good quality Garam Masala powder
- Packs of long life tofu (I usually buy fresh tofu, but it’s nice to know you have some on hand if you need some!)
- Mirin (I use this all the time, but white wine is a good substitute)
- Chinese rice wine vinegar
- Japanese curry paste blocks
- Packs of pre-packaged grains (eg quinoa & rice mix- great for insta salads)
- Dhuka (I love dipping bread in this & olive oil)
- Other oils: Sunflower, avocado..
- Other herbs and spices: cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel seeds
- Dried mushrooms
- Chilli pastes such as harissa
Tell me in the comments below what your cupboard essentials are- I’d love to know!